You cannot tie the Russian genocide with a bow and send it on a peacekeeping mission to the Olympic Games in Paris

Russian athletes won’t wash away the stain of this war with Fa soap. They are and will be marked by it as long as the war continues. Irrespective of whether they are for or against.

Before the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine the International Olympic Committee is facing a research problem. It will consider the possibility of Russian and Belarusian athletes taking part in the Paris Olympics. Certainly, inspired by the idea of world peace, for by what else?

Ukraine’s reaction was immediate. It points in the opposite direction to that of the IOC. Presidential advisor, Mykhaylo Podolak called the Committee “an organization promoting inhumane Russian propaganda” and the possible Games with Russian participation – “a platform to promote genocide”.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised to make effort at “cleansing the international Olympic structures of hypocrisy. He started off by inviting Thomas Bach to Bakhmut. Certainly so that he look at and think. I have my doubts whether the president’s plan succeeds as Mr. Thomas has already thought up what’s his.

Ukrainian athletes are also actively protesting. Zhan Beleniuk, gold medalist from Tokyo in Greco-Roman wrestling, MP called for a debate in the Verkhovna Rada. A boycott of the Olympics along with a broad coalition of countries was discussed.

With stars on epaulettes

The IOC being most outraged by the affair, it issued a respective and very predictable statement. It resolutely renounced “defamatory” criticism suggesting that it couldn’t “serve and constructive discussion”.

Alas, it didn’t expand on this thread, which is a shame for at present the only platform of any constructive is the war in Ukraine, massacres of civilians, rape, looting, bombing and an pervasive trauma of death. That’s the basis of a discussion set up by the Russians.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister quoted meaningful Olympic statistics. Out of 71 medal won in Tokyo by the Russians, 45 were gained by members of the Central Sport Club of the Army. Some – with stars on their epaulettes.

The Russian army, not only Gazprom massively subsidizes the local sport. At the Olympics the statistics would be similar, but the circumstance – completely different. Athletes form an country aggressor, under a white flag symbolizing peace and fraternity of nations, financed from the budget of an army that is committing war crimes. What the hell is that?

How would the world read that out? The white flag symbolizes neutrality, which in this case would be like spitting in the face of the world. Because who would certify that neutrality? Commando of the apostles of death, as Ukrainians talk about potential Olympians from Russia?

Russian athletes won’t wash away the stain of this war with Fa soap. They are and will be marked by it as long as the war continues. Irrespective of whether they are for or against. And Regardless of the research inclinations of the IOC. On Thomas Bach’s inflated populism, officially: an apostle of world peace...

Zappy Ms. Mayor

The world is slightly confused though not shaken yet. Baltic states and Poland are protesting openly. They are seriously considering its boycott of the event if the Russians and Belarusians show up. There is no decision because the research is under way.

The IOC has only begun to sound out the market with the use of a red herring. They want to get a first idea of how strong the opposition will be. Where it is strong and where it is weak. Because they already know where there is (and probably will) be none.

Paris is delighted. The city’s mayor Anne Hidalgo supported the Olympic HQ project. However a week later she turned against it. Ms. Mayor is visibly zappy. She cannot cope with the situation as she found herself under pressure.

It seems that she supported it not because she believed in “the gesture of goodwill” and the magical significance of the neutral flag. Probably because she was gripped by an uncontrollable fear at the very thought of boycotting the event. At the thought of the losses that might result from such a boycott.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE All Olympic Games are hosted by cities. Sometimes with more, but usually with less, support from the national budget. Rome recently paid off its debts from the 1960 Games. For Paris, it is already an uphill task that is only getting harder.

Seine-Saint-Denis will be the centre of the Olympics. The district has the highest rate of poverty and crime in the country. President Emmanuel Macron expressed his concern that the city “won’t get fair payback” for the expenses made on Olympic investment. Well, it won’t since the government has cut subsidies to sports facilities of local importance. The president expressively promised “a great plan for local clubs” but talk is cheap. In contrast to what is built and for what one has to pay.

President Zelenskyy appealed to President Macron for an IOC ban on the Russians. The outcome of this appeal is hard to predict as Macron is attached to at least two popular slogans of the Paris Olympics.

The first one says “Olympics wide open”, and, at that, in every possible aspect. The other, which the French president has made public many times: “The Games must be self-financing”. In other words the first contradicts the exclusion of anyone. The latter leads to a measurable profit.

In the case of sporting events, particularly of Olympic Games, the profit is generated by attractive rivalry. It lures sponsors, TV corporations and huge audiences. Russian athletes win medals so they help increase the appeal of the shows. And a boycott would mean a total loss.

All sports activists in the world speak fluent the language of finance. And the leaders of international federations, such as IOC, FIFA, UEFA or ITF even use it in a preferential way. To put it outright and bluntly – that’s the only language they understand.

Games like a respirator

Mr. Bach is the only one who reacts allergically to the word “boycott”. But the representatives of almost every Olympic discipline are also getting nervous. Except for football and tennis because in these branches one earns their money elsewhere and acquires fame in other arenas. Cycling too, in that matter.

But for many sportsmen the Olympics are like oxygen, for others like a respirator because they give a chance to survive. A chance for some sponsors or state financing. Such disciplines hovered on the brink of death after postponing the Olympics in Tokyo.

IOC researchers have caused a wave of outrage though it’s not a tsunami yet. There are rumors circulating rather than news. Apparently the British are considering this solution, perhaps the Americans too. Reportedly 40 countries all together. However a coalition of protest is yet to bet put together.

Besides, solidarity is needed, which may be problematic. There is no such thing after sanctions were imposed as a consequence of the invasion of Ukraine. The world of tennis has ignored sanctions against Russia, as did the world of boxing. Many federations are seeking opportunities to by-pass the sanctions. With some shyness, but not too much…

Russian athletes have their own ideas. They are submitting applications for citizenship to the authorities of Kazakh authorities and they do it en masse. The letter-writing activity has increased incredibly since the outbreak of the war. Kazakhstan accepts only some and only under certain conditions.

First of all they have to be of some use under the new address: to go in for a principal discipline, which Kazakhstan wants to develop. Secondly, they have to be champions in their “lines of work”, prove a career that is rich in international successes.

However, there is a considerable inconvenience in those transfers, and of moral character, too. Most of the Russian aspiring for passports come from army or police units. Many of them are ranked officers or non-commissioned officers of the Rosgwardia. It was also the case of the Belarusians.

The exodus of Belarusian athletes to Kazakhstan began in 2020. Among them there were also formal officers of the Belarusian KGB. But they were simply fleeing Lukashenka’s dictatorship. They were treated as political refugees.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine changes the optics of looking at sport and calls for a redefinition many things. Among other the misleading Olympic ideology. Of course the IOC doesn’t see this need. Just the opposite: it continues to falsify reality.

The ARMi-2022 International Military Games organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense in August last year. Photo shows T-shirts with portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoygu at a souvenir shop during the competition in Alabino, near Moscow. Photo Contributor/Getty Images
In the subsequent statement it reached a Mount Everest of hypocrisy. It gave it the title “On solidarity with Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and Belarus and the status of nationals of these countries”. Great, but false to the core, which can be read in the president’s commentary.

Thomas Bach informs that the competition (read: the Paris Games) “only those athletes who fully respect the Olympic Charter will be allowed to participate: they did not oppose the IOC peacekeeping mission. and did not actively support the invasion of Ukraine and are also complying with the provisions of the World Anti-Doping Code”.

In the translation of these phrases into everyday language, nothing is what it seems. Solidarity with the victims and winking at the perpetrators is no solidarity. Sanctions that supposedly exist but miraculously disappear under a white flag are no sanctions.

The Olympic Charter and the peacekeeping mission are embellishments. Doping is off-topic. On topic is this bonus for those who didn’t actively support. Just for what? For the fact that they are actively silent, so they support inactively. Because those who actively protest are in prison.

Mr. Bach and his friends are no idiots. They know exactly what it’s like. The Russian genocide cannot be wrapped in silver and gold, tied with bows and sent to Paris on a peacekeeping mission. That’s why they are misleading, trying to divert attention from the essence of the problem.

First count, then boycott

A possible boycott provokes different reactions from athletes. Especially after the pandemic lockdown and the carousel with postponing the Tokyo Olympics. If it happened, they would be the most affected.

Władysław Kozakiewicz, Olympic pole vault champion from Moscow in 1980, protested very emotionally against the possibility of Poland boycotting the Paris Games. At the same time Władek does not agree to the performance of the Russians and Belarusians in principle.

Many past and present athletes feel the same way. Journalists write their texts in this spirit. There are claims that boycotts do nothing. There were several of them, but the moon doesn’t care for barking dogs. Athletes pay with damaged careers and the IOC gets fat and doesn’t care.

The point is that it doesn’t give about it what and I know and you can guess. But that would only be possible on one condition. Sparking true Olympic solidarity. And not as the IOC would like. Not that everyone is going to the Olympics. But so that all or most of them stay at home.

Assembling a coalition of protest of 40 states will be a sterile repeat of history. This Byzantium can only be shaken by a global collapse. If most IOC member countries, say 150 or 170, threatened to boycott, then it would be possible.

Asia would probably play in Bach’s orchestra. The Chinese would take all the medals. A lonely Syrian woman in a headscarf would fly a hundred in 17 seconds, then it’s over and done with. Such games would probably not be very profitable. But such a prospect could force some changes.

The more coalition partners, the greater the chance of not giving IOC the choice and forcing down with your knee There is no other way to squeeze any decency out of these guys. So first you have to count, then boycott. As long as it is necessary. Regardless of personal costs.

Authorization of war and crime

Some things cannot be reconciled. To be against the Russians in Paris, but to run with them when they show up there? Well, because years of preparation were wasted, sports opportunities were lost. But also, unfortunately, it is also about authorizing war and crime.

Righteous indignation is not enough today. Actions are needed to prove which side sport and athletes stand on. Today, words are cheap and easy. And the IOC is immune to criticism. Scandals and scandals do not harm it. A strike on a global scale, however, could work.

Habit is man’s second nature. The world has become accustomed to the war in Ukraine. Just like with the violation of sanctions imposed on Russian sport. The good relations of Bach or Infantino with Putin are also not impressive. And this is especially dangerous. Because habit simply dulls your vigilance.

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Putin will do anything to push forward the Kremlin propaganda through sport. His “special operation” fails. He can count on the Olympics, because he has an election ahead of him. Much more difficult than the previous ones. He needs success to survive and not go to prison. And that would be an optimistic variant.

Under a white or green flag, medals won by Russian athletes will please citizens. There’s nothing to suggest that they can’t cheer for their own while watching TV sets. Sanctions are full of loopholes and can be circumvented. Also in virtual space, I suppose.

Television rights to the 2018-2024 Olympic Games were acquired by Discovery Communications, the owner of Eurosport [and in Poland, among others TVN – ed.]. After the fusion with Warner Media, they were owned by Warner Bros, which resells sub-licenses to Europe.

Russia has a powerful private media company called the National Media Group (NMG). It also has the state-owned operator Rostelkom. Both groups work closely together. All registered channels are available throughout Russia under universal licenses.

NMG and Rostelkom have joint rights to many interesting, eagerly watched channels, ranging from nature, information and ending with sports. For the latter, they can use Eurosport 1, Eurosport 2, Eurosport Gold and Eurosport K4.

So it’s over and done with. However, if the Russians appeared in Paris and only repeated their result in Tokyo, then Putin will have the success he is waiting for.

So a boycott is likely. Whether it is effective depends on its size, on the determination of the protesting states. Experience shows that cosmetic boycotts do not change anything. Gestures are important, but real changes are way more important.

In the Olympic movement as well as in the mentality of sports environments. Because history says “check”. Who behaves in solidarity and who is selfish in this game. For now, the coalition is in the making, the IOC hoots imperiously, partly out of duty, but perhaps more out of fear. And may it remain so.

– Marek Jóźwik
– Translated by Dominik Szczęsny-Kostanecki

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

Main photo: From left: Brigitte Macron with her husband French President Emmanuel Macron, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and President of the IOC. Thomas Bach during the final match of the 2018 World Cup between France and Croatia in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. Photo TF-Images/Getty Images
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